It is now painfully clear just how much virulent lies from right-wing media have fueled election fraud conspiracies and deadly domestic terrorism. By perpetuating and amplifying outlandish fantasies, millions of Americans are in a hyped up state about something that did not occur. But Fox and other conservative news and talk outlets have also contributed to, if not caused, even more harm on another front over a full blown actual crisis they willfully ignore.
I’m referring to their well-fueled disinformation campaign on climate and other life and death environmental issues. This effort has been going on for at least two decades with the science denying narrative fueled by polluters and too many Republicans to protect their assets, and positions of power, respectively. Planet, people, and the forever future be damned.
There is no indication that the right wing climate clowns are coming to their senses or even a little bit nervous about pushback, be it through legal action or pressure on advertisers. Wasting no time, several Fox shows resumed their falsehoods and unhinged attempts to sabotage all efforts to reverse or slow climate collapse on Inauguration Day and in the days following. Call it the “Foxic Effect” because the fear mongering lies about job losses and economic ruin help fortify resistance to cleaning up the environment, aka our home.
Actual news about damage accruing to our climate, weather, oceans, coral reefs, rain forests, glaciers, wildlife, food, water and human health — hastened by the departed Trump administration’s rollbacks — is routinely ignored by right-wing media channels and has been enabled by public indifference and inattention to these urgent threats.
Much of the human-caused degradation to nature is NOT reversible, rendering the Big Climate Lie even more destructive than even fomenting election fraud and partisan violence. It’s also more deadly than downplaying the science and severe threats from COVID19 — in the long term if not near future. So why don’t we hear much, if anything, about these flagrant lies? Where is the outrage, uproar and accountability on that front?
Many Americans are only newly aware of just how reckless Fox news and opinion hosts — as well as other conservative talkers — have been in peddling dangerous lies with intentional ignorance, arrogance, and impunity. That lack of awareness is understandable since well-informed citizens don’t watch Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, or listen to Rush Limbaugh.
I have both witnessed first hand and experienced being the target of Hannity’s climate lies. For each of the more than dozen times I was a guest on his TV and radio shows the sparring segments alone revealed gross distortions of the truth, with low credibility delivered at high volume (see photo above). It was appalling, galling, toxic, and ought to be be criminal given the serious consequences. We have more climate deniers than any other country and science illiterate citizens vote for non- science savvy candidates. What could possibly go wrong?
In addition to loudly and frequently denying threats of climate and ecosystem collapse — while mocking the scientists and activists trying to address these epic challenges— right wing enablers on cable networks and talk radio have been rewarded for perpetuating these untruths with inexplicably high ratings and obscenely high salaries. The top Fox personalities make tens of millions of dollars each year with Hannity taking home (to his many mansions) a reported $45 million a year — to lie! And that doesn’t include speaking and promotional gigs.
How is that acceptable and why is it tolerated as our planet withers and writhes and our children’s future safety hangs in the balance?
This absurd and astonishing situation has been a focus of mine for two decades but as more people wake up to the dangers of fake news — the REAL fake news — we’re still not hearing much, if anything, about how these bloviating buffoons are major contributors to climate denial and inaction in our country. Each time I was on Hannity’s show he had paid shills for the fossil fuel industry on against me, always spewing outrageous nonsense. I actually got harassed online for daring to state that “humans are part of nature.” For them it’s a game to knock liberals, mock environmental activists and deny scientific facts. Even if we didn’t have these dark forces actively thwarting progress, the task ahead is nothing short of monumental. How dare they and where is the accountability?
If more Americans knew the truth about how quickly the window to act on climate collapse is closing — and what will happen if we don’t start dramatically curbing our emissions — we likely would not have had Donald Trump, and his corrupt cast of cronies, in the White House.
Elections have consequences and it could well take years to repair the damage, both to the climate and our country’s reputation, by pulling out of the Paris Accord. At least we have a new science-savvy Presidential team wasting no time in reversing the idiocy, returning us to the global agreement, and shutting down the controversial Keystone pipeline project. In their first week Biden/Harris did more than any previous administration to address the crisis. They’re only getting started but it will take a sustained effort to undo Trump’s rollbacks on fuel efficiency, factory emissions, and methane release from fracking and other dirty processes. It should be clear why we cannot afford any more climate clueless politicians or overpaid deny-o-saurs on national airwaves.
To those who would argue that the pandemic and threats to our democracy pose a bigger threat to our citizens and country consider this: extreme weather inflicted $95 billion worth of damage in the United States in 2020 alone and more Americans have died from emissions infused weather disasters, air and water pollution, toxins and other environmental health threats over the years — and will — than from COVID.
While our fragile democracy faces its biggest challenge in our country’s short history, it WILL survive, likely growing stronger after recent events have served as a giant wake-up call. But our fragile atmospheric and interconnected ecosystems — that make up the web of ALL life — are not so resilient when pushed to the breaking point, which science shows we are rapidly approaching.
When birds are falling from the sky, perishing in record numbers, and bees and other insects disappearing for equally mysterious and disturbing reasons, it should be a Rachel Carson moment each and every day. But if you’re a regular Fox watcher there’s no need for concern. It’s all a big hoax. Better to fear fake threats like socialism, police de-funding, an end to law and order. If the irony and hypocrisy of those manufactured “crises” aren’t apparent then you haven’t been paying attention to the news. And loosening pollution standards in the midst of a respiratory pandemic is so ironic as to be moronic.
Where is the accountability for what should be crimes against humanity leveled at highly irresponsible mega, or MAGA, media outlets posing as news organizations? They’ve clearly duped, if not brainwashed, millions of Americans and whipped up a frenzy over non-existent threats — while downplaying and denying the very real prospect of a punishing planet.
Even as some “conservative” hosts dialed back their rhetoric — a bit — on COVID, mask-wearing, and voter fraud — thanks to lawsuits — they are still getting away with murder, lying about real-world risks to our planet’s health and humanity’s future. Where are the lawsuits, harsh warnings and op-eds on that angle?
Having presented that question to lawyers, media watchdog groups, and public interest non-profits, the First Amendment keeps coming up as an obstacle to forcing the deadly lies to stop.
But you can’t yell fire in a crowded theatre — IF we ever crowd into theatres and other large public venues again — so the First Amendment does have some exceptions. Then why is it okay to allow overpaid cons on right-wing channels to yell the equivalent in reverse: to repeat on television and radio (where the large majority of talk radio is conservative or extreme right-wing) that the planet is NOT on fire? Or that there is NO climate emergency?
It’s a helluva price to pay, but if radicalization of the right — fueled by media (both traditional and social) echo chambers — leads to a cleansing of platforms and personalities that specialize in dirty lies, it will be one of the few silver linings in this devastatingly dark period.
If 2020 was the year of clarity and consequences — to better see what’s NOT working and exposing what was mostly out of view — may 2021 be a year of course correction. Until media perpetrators who are the opposite of patriots are called out and shown the exit door, there can be no healing of people, our political divide, or the planet; our life support system.
If Trump has blood on his hands — not only from rampaging mobs but from other hate crimes that have led to deaths on his watch — he also has carbon fueled carnage on his hands. And so does the Murdoch family. While we’re all washing our hands of the virus, let’s also make now the time to clean up our media landscape and rid it of virulent untruths and propaganda. With the clock ticking on emissions reduction deadlines, there isn’t a day to waste.
And while we’re at it…removing the liars from broadcast and cable airwaves addresses only half the problem. Mainstream news channels need to start covering climate and environmental developments more regularly as if they constitute an emergency, equal if not surpassing threats to our public health and democracy. These are no longer slow moving or distant challenges and ecological damage is enduring, much of it not likely to be reversible, and global in nature.
Mainstream news channels, especially the widely viewed networks, must also begin offering content on solutions even if it means interrupting their regularly scheduled (political) programming, just like they do for COVID and other news du jour. What better use of mass media outlets right now? How are we ever going to get off our gasses if we’re not having a national conversation about how to do it? We’re late getting on this, it’s complicated, and we need more than an occasional 2 minute story, or segment, on breaking climate news.
Just look at what near-constant coverage and dot-connecting did to expose and educate Americans about the pandemic, and impact behavior nearly overnight. Why treat our existential earth emergency any differently? Our home IS on fire and the sky really IS falling. Does anyone out there know how to reassemble intricate and interconnected ecosystems? So why are we destroying them so nonchalantly and piling on the damage while we’re busy distracting ourselves? As President Obama said: “there IS such a thing as too late.” What will you say when your kids ask “what did you do during the narrow window to act?”
If mainstream channels fail to meet their societal obligation to inform the public about needed action to reverse the “climate virus” to keep it from worsening, that is equivalent to withholding a life-saving vaccine. The solutions are out there and everyone should know about them, if nothing else to offer Americans hope and motivation. Just as personal choices like mask wearing and social distancing impact public health; what we drive, how we build, what we eat, and who we vote for, matters for the collective good.
And it’s all connected. You may not hear about it on the news but world reknown virologists insist that if humans don’t start living in better balance with nature, and better protect wildlife habitats, we will certainly have more frequent, and deadly pandemics, perhaps worse than COVID.
There can be no public health, nor thriving democracy, on a dead planet.
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